How Michael Cohen went from saying he would 'take a bullet' for Trump to implicating him in federal crimes

Drew Angerer/Getty ImagesMichael Cohen, President Donald Trump’s former personal attorney and fixer, exits federal court, August 21, 2018 in New York City. Cohen reached an agreement with prosecutors, pleading guilty to charges involving bank fraud, tax fraud and campaign finance violations.
  • Michael Cohen, formerly one of President Donald Trump’s closest allies, is testifying on Capitol Hill today, and is expected to drop several bombshells about President Donald Trump.
  • Cohen shocked the world when he implicated Trump in two federal crimes during his guilty plea to eight felonies in August.
  • Between 2017 and 2018, Cohen went from stating he’d “take a bullet” for Trump to placing him in serious legal jeopardy.
  • Lanny Davis, one of Cohen’s attorneys, in August gave Business Insider some insight into what motivated Cohen to turn on Trump.
  • Follow along with Cohen’s testimony here.

Michael Cohen is testifying before the House Oversight Committee today in a high-stakes hearing in which he is expected to reveal several bombshells about President Donald Trump.

Cohen’s emotional prepared testimony on Wednesday was emblematic of how drastically his relationship with Trump has shifted over the past year or so.

In September 2017, Cohen said he would “take a bullet” for the president. On Wednesday, he said his “blind loyalty” to Trump took him down a “path of darkness instead of light.”

“I am ashamed of my weakness and misplaced loyalty – of the things I did for Mr. Trump in an effort to protect and promote him,” Cohen’s prepared testimony said. “I am ashamed that I chose to take part in concealing Mr. Trump’s illicit acts rather than listening to my own conscience.”

In December, Cohen was sentenced to three years in prison by US District Judge William H. Pauley III for crimes he committed as personal lawyer and fixer to President Donald Trump.

In August, Cohen pleaded guilty to tax fraud, bank fraud, and campaign-finance violations in the Southern District of New York. The violations were related to payments to buy the silence of two women, Karen McDougal and Stormy Daniels, who say they had affairs with Trump.

On November 30, Cohen struck a deal to plead guilty to one count of lying to Congress in exchange for cooperating with Robert Mueller, the special counsel leading the investigation into Russia’s interference in the 2016 US presidential election and whether the Trump campaign colluded with Moscow.

Cohen apologised for his crimes in his December 2018 sentencing hearing, stating he’d felt he had a “duty” to “cover up” Trump’s “dirty deeds.”

Cohen went from a trusted fixer to Trump to implicating him in serious crimes

Yana Paskova/Getty ImagesMichael Cohen.

Cohen shocked the world in August when he pleaded guilty to eight federal crimes in the Southern District of New York, and directly implicated President Donald Trump in two of them.

Cohen pleaded guilty to five counts of tax evasion, one count of bank fraud, one count linked to an unlawful corporate contribution, and one count stemming from an illegal campaign contribution. During his hearing, Cohen said he committed the latter two offenses “at the direction” of then-candidate Trump with the intent of influencing the 2016 election.

More recently, Cohen pleaded guilty to lying to Congress about his involvement in a plan to build Trump Tower in Moscow, stating discussions on the real estate deal lasted well into the 2016 campaign season. This came after he entered a new plea deal with special counsel Robert Mueller, who’s investigating Russian election interference and the Trump campaign’s alleged collusion.

A sentencing memo released by federal prosecutors in December endorsed Cohen’s implications against the president. It stated Cohen carried out both hush money payments “in coordination with and at the direction” of Trump.

Both the illegal corporate and campaign contributions refer to Cohen’s efforts to quash negative stories about Trump’s alleged affairs with porn star Stormy Daniels and model Karen McDougal, just weeks before the election.

Federal prosecutors in the Southern District of New York initially began investigating Cohen for potential campaign finance law violations in part because of a $US130,000 hush-money payout to Stormy Daniels, but the inquiry expanded to Cohen’s potential tax and bank fraud relating to his taxi medallion business.

But Cohen’s transformation is perhaps most notable because of the dramatic manner in which he turn away from Trump; having gone from saying he would “take a bullet” for Trump, to incriminating him in two serious federal crimes, possibly throwing the US into uncharted constitutional territory.

Read more: Trump has been implicated in several federal crimes, but here’s why experts say he hasn’t faced legal consequences

Why Cohen took the plea deal

Jeffrey Cohen, a practicing attorney in New York City (no relation to Michael Cohen), told INSIDER in a phone call in August that, given the severity of the federal charges involved, taking a plea deal was, in his view, the best way for Cohen to hedge his bets in this matter.

“His lawyers almost definitely knew he was going to lose,” he said. “If you take a plea before trial, you do better than if you try to approach a deal after the government has invested the time and money in trying the case, In this case, my feeling is that he just didn’t have a choice.”

Deputy US Attorney Robert Khuzami said Cohen’s conduct reflected a “pattern of lies and dishonesty” in a press conference after Cohen’s August hearing and said they were “particularly significant when done by a lawyer.” Similar statements were made at Cohen’s sentencing hearing on Wednesday, as prosecutors accused him of engaging in a “pattern of deceit, brazenness and greed.”

“They were going to crucify him,” Jeffrey Cohen speculated. “If he went to trial and he lost, he would have gone to jail for the rest of his life.”

Cohen could have faced up to 65 years of prison, if convicted. He’d hoped his cooperation would translate into no time behind bars, but Judge Pauley on Wednesday said it did “not wipe the slate clean.”

‘The straw that broke the camel’s back’

Chris McGrath/Getty ImagesPresident Donald Trump and Russian President Vladimir Putin at their summit in Helsinki, Finland, in July.

In an interview with INSIDER in August, Lanny Davis, an attorney for Cohen, said his client “started to unload on me about Trump’s suitability to be president, his temperament, the Twitter, the venom, the anger,” long before he pleaded guilty.

Davis described Trump’s controversial summit with Russian President Vladimir Putin as the “straw that broke the camel’s back” for his client.

He said Trump’s public doubting of his intelligence community’s assessment that Russia interfered in the 2016 election in favour of Putin’s denial made his client “very emotional.”

Davis described Cohen as feeling “liberated” after entering his guilty pleas and having the freedom to now speak his mind.

Cohen will ‘state publicly all he knows’ about Trump

During Wednesday’s congressional testimony, Cohen called Trump a “racist,” a “cheat,” and a “con-man” who engaged in criminal conduct while in office.

Cohen levied several bombshell accusations against Trump in the statement. For instance, Cohen said Trump had previous knowledge of Wikileaks’ plans to release a trove of hacked emails from the Hillary Clinton campaign and the Democratic National Committee days before the Democratic National Convention in 2016.

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